Friday, October 21, 2011

A Dwarf Goby in an Overpopulated Sea

     I’ve been in Austin almost 48 hours and I must admit I could get mighty comfortable here.  The Ann Richards Bridge, the F@!*k Rick Perry graffiti, the greenery growing in between the high-rises, the Tex Mex, Cuban, and various food trucks along South Congress who start cooking early and fill the air with the most delicious aromas, the block after block of bohemian second-hand stores… and oh yeah, the girls in their  boots.
    My first afternoon, I experienced the infamous 1870’s Driskill Bar, where drinks are 9 bucks apiece (during happy hour) and one doesn’t obtain the slightest buzz even after 3.   Staring down at me from the wall, through the rows and rows of dark mahogany and marble, was the stuffed head of what used to be an extremely handsome longhorn.
His eyes pretty much said it all, “You don’t fit, lady.”  
This is the host hotel, and the buzz is if you want to network and meet important people in “the industry” then this is where you hang out in between the workshops and into the wee hours of the morning, which can be a problem for this girl because I have to tape all 9:00 p.m. shows in order to see the endings the following day.
     But I decided this afternoon would be different.  So after spending an entire day in panel after panel; rooms filled with producers, filmmakers, writers and agents, I took the suggestion of the Super Shuttle driver that got me here from the airport and found B.D. Riley’s Irish Pub for some authentic beer and authentic conversation.  I got both.  I met Chris the bartender, who also produces shorts, and Stuart the Delta pilot, who graduated from Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University but is now a Buddhist.   
My tab, btw, was $7.00 for 2 very good gin and tonics.  Chris even threw in a diet coke to send me on my way. 

     As I take in the sights, sounds and people of South Congress, West Riverside, the warehouse district and 6th Street, I’m wishing to Christ I had what it takes to read a map.  After walking aimlessly (the wrong way) down one street, in a fruitless attempt to find The Rollins Theater and watch an indie film made and produced in Texas, (ironically called Unknown, Texas), I give up and return to my cheap motel room to somehow offer up a condensed summary of the festival and how a girl from a trailer park is trying to hold her own. 

     It takes guts (and a strong vagina) to go sola to The Austin Film Festival in the first place, but it takes even more to sit at bars and pubs; engaging with guys who comment on your purse more than the fact that you’ve just told them you’re a writer.
My purse is actually a guy magnet.  It’s made of aluminum can flip-tops and crocheted together in a crazy unique way by women in Brazil who probably get 2 bucks per bag.  A guy approached me in The Driskill lobby yesterday and said, “Wow, cool bag. It’s bottle caps, right?"
   There are nearly 4,000 attendees/badge holders at this year’s Austin Film Festival and over 12,000 individual film ticket buyers.  I’m a dwarf goby in a Gigantor sea overpopulated with tunas, whales and sharks.
This goby has a lot of strikes against her:
1. She’s over 40.
2. She’s a she.
3. Her first love is poetry, her second, short fiction and her third, satirical blogging.
4. She’s over 40.
5. She’s an unpublished, unproduced, unknown who happens to be an over 40 poet who writes short fiction, blogs and happens to have the coolest, most original screenplay at the festival like the other 4,000 attendees.
6. She’s a she.
7. She never has and never will live in Los Angeles.
8. She’s well over 40.
I’m not a baby, people.  These are cold, cruel facts.
     It’s as if I have two little companions traveling with me on my shoulders.
You know those cartoony icons: a red devil and a white angel.   One is sitting gracefully (white-clad angel) on my right shoulder, whispering in my ear such sweet things like  “Gobies have a place in an ocean….the writer of Blindside was a nobody…the girl who wrote Juno started with a blog…never give up…good things happen to good people…”
The other one is standing on my left shoulder, flames shooting out of his ears, wearing red Speedos and a cross look on his face. He’s shaking his red pitchfork and shouting things like,  “Gobies make yummy bait…you didn’t attend Columbia… you’re not that good of an embellisher… you don’t live in L.A…maybe your friends and family will buy it.”

     No matter how many times I put my cell phone up to my ear in the crowded mezzanine, pretending someone is actually on the other end of the line… and no matter how many times I find myself saying that I’m staying at The Driskill, The InterContinental or on the Westside with a “writer friend”, the truth is that I'm scared as shit and I’m at The Austin Motel, located in what used to be the “red light district”, with its paper-thin walls; where you put your slippers on before you walk on the floors. You can’t beat the quirky d├ęcor though, especially for 80 bucks a night.

     It actually comes down to personal choice for all of us now, doesn’t it?
At any moment, in any given situation that life presents, we decide if it will be the angel or the devil that we listen to.  Who will be more influential in making a decision, in the words we speak, the actions we take or the journey we embark upon?
Those 2 characters ride on our shoulders each and every day and force us to have conversations, make determinations and choices based on how we perceive the glass;
half empty or half full?

     This particular experience will tug at the two sides of my soul who’ve always battled:
the realist and the dreamer.  But the realist doesn’t have to necessarily be a fatalist who falls down some rabbit hole engulfed by flames and filled with flying monkeys that are screeching
“It will never ever happen, sista, so quit fooling yourself!”
I can be the hummingbird who fills her tiny beak and attempts to put out a blazing forest fire.
Or I can sit at the edge and convince myself that I am much too small to change a horrific situation.
It’s really up to each of us every minute each day, now isn’t it? 

    I’m usually fairly humble, much to my own detriment I suppose, so forgive me for sharpening my tongue, but in my very small experience writing with a co-writer, surrounding myself with a handful of folks in “the industry” including writers, musicians, artists, producers, actors (just to name a few), I am inclined to say that one difference between us is that at least I know I’m a goby.  The majority of them have this grand illusion that they are majestic whales.

There were over 5,800 screenplay submissions this year to the AFF and an additional 1,000 entries of pilot scripts.  With another year under my belt, perhaps there’ll be 5,801 next year.

Love from Austin.


  1. giddyup girl!! just be your poet self

  2. Like Dori says "Just keep swimming, Just keep swimming".
    Have fun with some whisky, straight up, and chase it down with a cozi. That will chase away those jitters.
    Remember - You kick ass!
    love ya,

  3. What?! Only one resident on each shoulder? Sometimes I've got so many little "helpers" on my shoulders that I feel like I might topple over. On a good day I have a distinct leftward pitch, on a not so good day I can be seen listing far to the right......
    You, my friend, are finding your Goby swim team. You got the mammaries (see last bog response for details!) to jump in over your head, so just keep your eye on the spot on the horizon where you intend to land, and each time you come up for air we'll all be here in your support boat cheering you on!
    May the kindness of strangers carry you through your current adventure Val.
    Namaste, Storm

  4. This morning as I sat in bed with Molly at a rental on Clearlake,I perused the shelf of books that sat bedside. Johnathan Livingston Seagull sprang out and I read it within the hour. The message was so clear and simple it brought me back to the time when I was 13 and it took me days to read. But it struck a chord in me then and it did today. You are this unique, perfect individual who has so much power in the flick of your wing with pen in hand. And you have such a gift to share with your flock. So go forth, our bright seagull woman, dive deep and strong, don't let the naysayers dissuade you! Shine bright and the glow will be the draw.........Annie

  5. So appreciate all of your encouraging words...

  6. What a splendid, graphic description of Austin, the AFF with its hoards of writers, your personal takes on the scene, including your little nesting spot at The Austin Motel. (I'll remember to bring slippers for my Wednesday night sleep-over so I won't stick to the floor!) Can't wait to hear all about it.
    Networking in the Driskill Hotel where Texas political deals have been cut for over a century? Nice, but expensive! The Irish Pub? Now that's more like it!
    Oh, Goby, don't despair. See it all. Soak it up. Stomp on that devil and experience it all. Know, also, that you have a gaggle of gals behind you, cheering you on. You're Chief Goby right now, and we love you for taking the plunge at your first film festival. Take good notes...Can't wait to hear a play-by-play account of weird Austin, from a California gal's perspective. See you late Wednesday morning after your two days of R&R, post-AFF. Two heads are better than one at reading a map (I hope! If not, we'll just muddle around together, laughing all the way.)